Lamar Miller: Cracks 100 Yards vs. Bengals

Miller gained 105 yards on 16 carries and 24 yards on four receptions in Thursday's 22-20 overtime win over the Bengals.

Miller looked good throughout the night, though his longest run (41 yards) ended with a costly red zone fumble. He also lost a significant amount of work to Daniel Thomas, who took 10 carries for 39 yards. Neither running back reached the end zone, as Miami's only offensive touchdown came on a one-yard Ryan Tannehill quarterback sneak. While the huge breakout performance has yet to happen, Miller does have 34 carries over the last two weeks, which creates some optimism about his prospects moving forward. Unfortunately, he hasn't scored since Week 4, and has caught just 12 passes this season.

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New-look Ravens hardly recognizable to Browns' Willis McGahee

When Cleveland Browns running back Willis McGahee faces his old team Sunday, he'll hardly recognize the Ravens' overhauled roster.

No more inside linebacker Ray Lewis, no more free safety Ed Reed and not many players remaining on the team since McGahee's final season in Baltimore in 2010.

The absence of a retired Lewis and a departed Reed, who signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Houston Texans in March, is particularly jarring to McGahee, a fellow University of Miami football alum.

"It’s different, because every time I used to look at them, they used to be back there controlling everything," McGahee said during a conference call Wednesday. "And now it’s a bunch of new faces. I guess it was time for them to start over and bring in new people.”

McGahee played four seasons for the Ravens before being cut in 2011 after backing up Ray Rice for the final two years.

McGahee rushed for a career-high 1,207 yards for the Ravens in 2007 and was named to the Pro Bowl after being acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Bills and signing a seven-year, $40.12 million contract.

"I had some good times in Baltimore," McGahee said. "I can’t complain about it. I was done right by the city and the organization. There’s no hatred or anything. It’s a business. It was time for me to move on and go somewhere else, and that’s what happened.”

McGahee spent the past two seasons with the Denver Broncos, rushing for 1,199 yards in 2011 in his first season there after signing a four-year, $9 million contract. He injured his knee last season and was placed on injured reserve before being released in June.

The Browns gave McGahee a call and moved quickly to sign him to a one-year, $940,000 contract in September after they traded running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a first-round draft pick.

McGahee, 32, has rushed for a modest 231 yards and one touchdown with an average of 2.9 yards per carry in six games and four starts since joining the Browns.

“I think I’m doing pretty good. I’m doing OK," said McGahee, who was held to 28 yards on nine carries in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday. "It doesn’t help when we’re down by two touchdowns in the first half, so you really can’t run the ball. But what I’ve been doing, I’ve been doing pretty decent.”

For his career, McGahee has rushed for 8,328 yards and 64 touchdowns with 205 receptions for 1,321 yards and five touchdowns.

McGahee has also provided a mentoring presence for his younger teammates.

"Willis has been big for us in a number of ways," Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. "He brings, not just from a football standpoint, his [leadership] ability and his running ability and the things that he does from that standpoint. We have a young group of guys, and the leadership that he brings, the maturity and the perspective that he’s had, he’s been great in terms of that.”

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Jon Beason addition boosts Giants linebackers

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jon Beason has already received lots of praise for the impact he's made since joining the New York Giants, but linebackers coach Jim Herrmann got to join the chorus this week.

The Giants made their position coaches available to the media Tuesday, during the team's bye week, meaning Herrmann had a chance to share his thoughts on his new starting middle linebacker.

"Obviously he's a Pro Bowl-caliber type guy and I think our guys like that in the room," Herrmann said. "It's different and new. He has a gregarious personality. He's very easy to get along with. You can tell why he's been a good leader."

The Carolina Panthers, after benching Beason in favor of former Giant Chase Blackburn, elected to trade Beason to the Giants back on Oct. 4 for a late-round draft pick. He's quickly made a big impact with Big Blue, leading the team in tackles in two of the past three games.

But Beason's leadership at middle linebacker, said Herrmann, has been even more important.

"I've always been a firm believer that there has to be one voice on the field," Herrmann said. "Coaches are on the sideline, somebody has to be the voice on the field. When you have a guy like that, that one voice resonates to everyone on the field, and the results are you have 11 guys on the same page, which is good."

The Giants' linebacker corps had been heavily criticized this season, prior to Beason's arrival. It was a young, relatively inexperienced group. Mark Herzlich had failed to distinguish himself in the middle, and Keith Rivers hasn't done anything particularly noteworthy, either.

Herrmann said he has been impressed by Spencer Paysinger, however, the third-year pro in his first season as a full-time starter. Paysinger is fourth on the team with 39 tackles.

"I think Spencer has done a great job this year," Herrmann said. "He has developed into a good football player."

Herrmann also had praise for Jacquian Williams, who appears to be healthy at long last and made a key fumble recovery in last Sunday's win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

"I think he's learning the nuances of the game, the nuances of coverage and covering people in man-to-man. That comes with experience," Herrmann said. "You need to learn how to cover a guy and different nuances of routes and where he needs to be. The more he does it, the better he is going to be."

Herrmann is well aware of the criticism directed at his unit, but thinks they've been better than people think.

"As a group, I think those guys have done a good job," Herrmann said. "In today's world, it's about wins and losses. You don't win and you lose, somebody’s going to take the criticism. It's just part of the business.

"The biggest thing I tell them is, 'Look, at the end of the day, can you walk off the field, look in the mirror, and say I played my best today?' If you do that, then you can keep doing that and get better each and every week. You'll eventually be successful."

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NFLPA says Brandon Meriweather ‘sorry’ for comments

According to the NFL Players Association, Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather is “sorry” for the comments he made this week.

“I spoke to Brandon,” DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA’s executive director, said in a written statement released by the union. “He is passionate about the game, and I know he is sorry for what he said. He is concentrating on helping his team win the rest of the season. Brandon knows that all players have a responsibility to each other and to play within the rules of the game.”

Meriweather said Thursday at Redskins Park that he’d spoken to Smith but declined further comment.

Meriweather, coming off a suspension imposed by the NFL for illegal hits, said Monday that “you’ve just got to go low now. You’ve got to end people’s career. You’ve got to tear people’s ACLs and mess up people’s knees now…. You can’t hit them high any more. You’ve just got to go low.”

The league originally suspended Meriweather last week for two games, with the penalty being imposed one day after Meriweather was penalized twice for illegal hits in a game against the Chicago Bears. Meriweather appealed and had his suspension reduced to one game by appeals officer Ted Cottrell. Meriweather sat out the Redskins’ loss last Sunday at Denver.

Meriweather also suggested Monday that Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall perhaps should be banned from the league for his off-field conduct. That came in response to Marshall, who absorbed one of the hits for which Meriweather was penalized, saying that Meriweather needed to be suspended or “taken out of the game completely.”

Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Thursday that he expects Meriweather to make the appropriate adjustments to his playing style when he returns to the lineup.

“Brandon is a good guy,” Haslett said. “He’s a good person. I don’t think he’ll do anything that’s gonna harm the football team. He said something out of emotion, the way he felt. But just knowing Brandon, the way he practiced yesterday, he’ll stay within the rules and try to do what’s best. He’s not gonna hurt our football team.”

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No decision on Jon Vilma's status

METAIRIE, La. -- Linebacker Jonathan Vilma is now eligible to return to the New Orleans Saints' active roster. But coach Sean Payton did not indicate Thursday if and when the Saints plan to activate him.

The Saints have until Nov. 11 to decide whether to activate Vilma or place him on season-ending injured reserve.

“He’s doing well. He’s getting reps. It’s just a matter of getting back into football-playing shape,” Payton said. “He’s someone who is a quick study, so he knows what we’re doing.”

The Saints have the luxury of bringing Vilma along slowly since veteran David Hawthorne has played so well in his absence. Hawthorne made two more big plays with a forced fumble and a sack last week against the Buffalo Bills.

Although the Saints haven’t discussed their plans for using the two linebackers going forward, it stands to reason that Hawthorne will remain the starter, with Vilma being used in a rotational role.

The Saints themselves probably don’t know exactly what to expect from Vilma when he returns to action. He has been hampered by a knee injury on and off for three seasons now, including the arthroscopic clean-up surgery in the preseason that landed him on short-term injured reserve.

Payton said it was good to have the new short-term I.R. rule (enacted last season) as an option.

“The uncertainty was the procedure, and yet we felt pretty good after the spring,” Payton said. “I think we spent some time on (Vilma’s roster status). But I think we really felt like it was important for our team to see this through.

“The good news is he’s going to work extremely hard at anything he does. I know he worked very hard at the rehab element of coming back and strengthening his leg. That’s a credit to him. I’m glad we were able to do that. I think that’s a good rule change, something teams can benefit from.”

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Colin McCarthy won’t take it easy on Cook

Rams tight end Jared Cook will square off against his former teammates on Sunday, but he shouldn’t expect his old buddies to take it easy on him.

“Obviously he played here, and he has some bitter feelings about the Titans and what they did to him I guess,’’ middle linebacker Colin McCarthy said. “But at the end of the day, it is our job to stop him … and if he comes across the middle guys will put shots on him.”

Cook, who played for the Titans from 2009-12, has 29 catches for 375 yards and two touchdowns with the Rams, who gave him a five-year, $35 million contract.

“I think he is going to come ready to play, he is going to come hungry – that is expected,’’ McCarthy said. “But beyond Jared Cook and the previous players from here than play there, this is a game we need to win.”

Cook is one of four former Titans with the Rams – cornerback Cortland Finnegan, defensive end William Hayes and linebacker Will Witherspoon are the others.

The Titans have 16 players who played for former Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who’s in his second year with the Rams.

Titans safety Bernard Pollard said no one needs to take sentimental feelings into the game: “They better check that at the door, because we have a game to go win.”

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Ray Lewis suing bank over nearly $4 million in alleged investment losses

Retired Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis is among a group of 16 current and former NFL players who are suing BB&T Bank for nearly $60 million in alleged investment losses.

The Baltimore Sun has obtained a copy of the lawsuit, which was first reported by Yahoo! Sports. The lawsuit alleges that Lewis, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year who retired following the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory in February, lost $3.778 million.

Lewis' agent, David Dunn, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition to Lewis, former Ravens linebacker Tavares Gooden allegedly lost $515,000 through an unauthorized bank transfer, according to the lawsuit.
Several NFL players are accusing the bank of allowing disgraced financial advisor Jeff Rubin and his former firm, Pro Sports Financial, to open accounts in their names and place tens of millions of dollars in unauthorized investments. The majority of the money went to a failed casino bingo project in Alabama that was deemed illegal under Alabama law in July of 2012.

"While we have not had the opportunity to review the allegations in detail, we understand this case concerns actions taken by BankAtlantic prior to its acquisition by BB&T in 2012," David R. White, BB&T's vice president of corporate communications, told Yahoo. "Because this is pending litigation, we cannot comment further."  

Rubin, whose firm provided financial-related services to professional athletes, has since been banned from the securities industry.

The other NFL players who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit and the money allegedly lost by each individual includes: former Atlanta Falcons defensive end Jamaal Anderson ($5.813 million), former St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans offensive guard Jacob Bell $3.339 million), former wide receiver Derrick Gaffney (2.295 million), San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore ($8.745 million), New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes ($1.159 million), linebacker Greg Jones $2.006 million), former Titans and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse ($7.958 million), former Washington Redskins defensive end Kenard Lang ($1.648 million), Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather ($3.645 million), Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss ($4.852 million), former Redskins running back Clinton Portis ($3.136 million), former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard ($5.011 million), former Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots running back Fred Taylor ($2.993 million) and former Cleveland Browns and Patriots defensive tackle Gerard Warren ($3 million).

The lawsuit alleges that BB&T developed a "close business relationship with Pro Sports, Rubin and other Pro Sports employees," including a special division "dedicated to targeting and servicing athletes and others in the sports industry,"

According to the lawsuit, Pro Sports deposited tens of millions of dollars of the plaintiffs' money in BB&T accounts opened and maintained in the plaintiffs' names with "illegitimate accounts that were opened with signature cards containing signatures that were forged by Pro Sports’ employees."

"After the monies were deposited, BB&T allowed numerous unusual, suspicious and extraordinary withdrawals from accounts opened in the name of each plaintiff that were neither within the scope of the service identified in the client services agreement nor authorized by the plaintiff in whose name the account was opened," the lawsuit alleges. "BB&T had actual knowledge that certain transactions on the plaintiffs’ accounts were unauthorized and exceeded the scope of the plaintiffs’ client service agreements with Pro Sports."

Former Ravens cornerback Duane Starks also had a relationship with Rubin’s firm.

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Indianapolis Colts will play without Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison for the first time since Dec. 27, 1998

Something will be different when the Colts play Houston on Sunday night.

For the first time since Dec. 27, 1998, the Colts will take the field without either Reggie Wayne or Marvin Harrison in the lineup. That’s 251 games, including the playoffs, with either No. 87 or No. 88 — or both — on the field.

Wayne’s streak of 189 regular-season appearances, 207 including the postseason, will end Sunday due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee suffered against Denver.

Harrison’s final season with the Colts was in 2008; appearing in 190 regular-season games during his 13-year career. The last time the Colts’ offense was without Wayne or Harrison was the final game of the ’98 season against Carolina. Harrison missed the final four games that season with a shoulder injury and Wayne was drafted in 2001.

Like the team as a whole, long-time assistant Clyde Christensen still is trying to come to grips with life without Wayne.

“I hear people asking Andrew (Luck) how it’s going to be without Reggie,” Christensen said with a smile. “Well, how about me? This is the first time I’ve been in the (meeting) room without Reggie.

“Believe me, it’s different. He was such a security blanket.”

Christensen arrived in 2002 as a member of Tony Dungy’s staff. He worked exclusively with the receivers from 2002-09.

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Indians release closer Chris Perez

Facing a decision on whether to tender him a 2014 contract via arbitration, the Indians have decided to simply release closer Chris Perez.

Perez made off-field headlines when he was arrested for having marijuana delivered to his house in his dog’s name this season, but he also missed time on the disabled list and struggled with a 4.33 ERA and five blown saves in 30 chances. He was a total mess down the stretch.

Perez was acquired from the Cardinals in the mid-2009 trade for Mark DeRosa and ended up spending five seasons in Cleveland, saving 124 games with a 3.33 ERA and 251 strikeouts in 268 innings. However, his velocity was down this season and he served up too many homers to go along with what has always been shaky control.

He’d have been in line for a raise on this year’s $7.3 million salary and it would have been tough for the Indians to justify that type of money for a 60-inning reliever who’s not even elite. Perez will surely draw plenty of interest as a free agent, but may have to compete for a closer gig or maybe even settle for a setup role.

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Bryant McKinnie pivotal to Fins' season

Acquired Oct. 21, McKinnie had just three days of practice before being thrust into the Dolphins' starting lineup as Ryan Tannehill's blindside protector. The shuffling along the line didn't do much in the way of improvement, as the Dolphins surrendered six second-half sacks against the Patriots and are up to 32 on the season, most in the NFL. The job for McKinnie doesn't get any easier this week, as he'll face a Cincinnati defensive line that has reserves with starter-level ability such as Wallace Gilberry, on pace for six sacks despite starting just one game in 2013. The front-line defensive ends, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson, are long, powerful and athletic, something McKinnie must account for. The mountainous McKinnie needs to tap into his own length to keep the rushers at bay.

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Steelers Will Have To Decide 2013 Fate Of LB Sean Spence Before Next Week

All eyes will be on Pittsburgh Steelers second-year linebacker Sean Spence this week as the team must make a decision as to his 2013 status before Week 10.

Spence, who injured a hand upon his return to the practice field in Week 7, must be placed on the 53 man roster, waived, or put on injured reserve due to the rules of the PUP list being as the three week window opened for him once he began practicing.

During his Tuesday press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was not asked about Spence, so we will have to wait and see if any news comes out this week from the media as to whether or not he is back participating.

The Steelers could easily find a spot for Spence on the 53 man roster even if he might be a few weeks away still from being able to contribute as the team could waive linebacker Kion Wilson once again. Wilson, who was promoted back to the 53 man roster last week from the practice squad, was one of the seven inactives this past Sunday in the loss to the Oakland Raiders.

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Frank Gore is Running Through Age Barrier

The 49ers’ running back of the future is waiting in the wings in rookie Marcus Lattimore, but there’s certainly no guarantee that future will be in 2014. Meanwhile, two younger, quicker backs on this year’s roster – Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James – rarely get enough game action to get tired.

The reason? Old Man Frank Gore seems to be anything but old.

Gore, who celebrated his 30th birthday in May, is having one of the best seasons of his nine-year NFL career at an age when most backs start heading downhill.

NFL history is filled with tales of elite running backs suddenly becoming shadows of themselves at 30, as time, thousands of hits and injuries take their toll.
As NFL analyst Tristan H. Cockroft wrote a few years ago, “I’ve run the numbers and I’ve rarely seen a theory in sports that has stronger statistical evidence than this one: NFL running backs hit a wall once they turn 30. Nay, they hit a concrete wall, and it practically stops them flat.”

Yet Gore, at the halfway point of this 2013 season, is the outlier.

As the 49ers (6-2) catch a break at midseason with their bye week – before resuming their schedule Nov. 10 against the Carolina Panthers at Candlestick Park – Gore ranks third in the NFL with 618 yards, is third with 146 carries, is second with seven rushing TDs and leads all players (including quarterbacks) with seven runs of 20 or more yards.

As Bill Williamson of wrote this week, Gore in many ways is on his way to a career year.

After stumbling twice in their first three games, the 49ers reverted to a run-first offensive game plan that features giving the ball to Gore early and often and letting him pick up yards behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. He’s on pace for 1,236 yards, 292 carries and 14 touchdowns. The rushing and carries totals would rank as the second best of his career and the TDs would be a career high (his best total was 10 in 2009).

Even more telling than Gore’s numbers is the fact the 49ers knew they had to start giving the ball to Gore more after their 1-2 start. The Niners may have a dynamic young quarterback, but Gore has been the foundation for San Francisco’s offense for many years, and offensive coordinator Greg Roman knew it was time to start feeding him the ball – even if he is over 30. Roman and his teammates knew from training camp that Gore hadn’t lost a step.

“We definitely want to get Frank Gore going,” Roman told reporters early this season. “Frank Gore’s one of the best backs in the league and one of our leaders. … Frank Gore’s going to be a big part of what we do this year. Frank churning out those yards for us is very important to our success.”

Since then, that’s exactly what Gore has done.

Not only has he been a key to the running game, but his work ethic has inspired his teammates and his ability as a receiver and pass blocker – the 49ers rank him as perhaps the best pass-protection blocker among all NFL backs – hasn’t gone overlooked.

Before the season began, Gore said he’d heard all the talk about his age and that this might be the start of his decline. When a preseason rating of the best players in the league put him at No. 32, he took it personally and said he was determined this season to show he’s as good as ever.

“They said he’s turning 30 and he might not have (any) more left,” Gore said. “I like that type of stuff. Whenever (the 49ers) let me get on the field, I’m going to go hard and prove everybody wrong again.”

So far, so good.

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Santana Moss: 'You Want To Be That Guy'

Although no player wants to be reminded, Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss hit an unsavory milestone on Sunday, suffering his 100th loss since arriving in the NFL in 2002.

While none have been enjoyable, few stung as much as the meltdown against the Denver Broncos last Sunday.

Despite being up by 14 on one of the NFL’s heavyweights, the Redskins let the Broncos off the ropes and exposed themselves to a series of haymakers through their own deficiencies.

By the final whistle, the Broncos had scored the last 38 points of the contest.

With five turnovers on offense and only 154 passing yards, the Redskins left Denver with more questions than answers.

Questions on play-call, decision-making and inability to protect the quarterback or the football combining with errant passes, route running and an alarming rise in dropped passes, the passing attack had its worst statistical performance since Week 8 of the 2011 season, when John Beck and Co. were shutout by the Buffalo Bills.

Moss, one of only four Redskins all-time with 500 receptions, said he and his teammates must relish their opportunities, whether it is catching the ball, blocking or creating a decoy to free a teammate.

“There are a lot of guys that want the ball,” Moss said on Wednesday. “[But] there’s only a few that can get it at a time and as long as you have that in your mind and know that this game is much more than catching balls and you’re out there sacrificing for your teammates, then you have a better understanding of what your role is.”

Moss and fellow recievers Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson and rookie tight end Jordan Reed have all been targeted at least 30 times this season. Only Reed has been able to secure more than 60 percent of throws in his direction.

A model of fundamentals, Moss’ number of drops has increased this year. While frustrated by the trend, the typically sure-handed receiver said the best thing he can do psychologically is shake off the mistakes and look to make better on his next opportunity.

“As a player, you know that happens,” Moss said. “It’s a part of the game. You have to be one with yourself and know that [you] have to make that play.

“When you don’t, you have to tell yourself you don’t get them often so when it comes to next time you make the play. It’s a hard task and at the end of the day, somebody has to come up with [the ball] and you want to be that guy.”

He admitted that Griffin III has done a good job of distributing the ball to his various weapons, but with defenses like the Broncos keying on the run game, the offense must do a better job of making adjustments to free Robert Griffin III to make the necessary play.

“It’s all about what we did with Robert [Griffin III],” Moss said in reference to last year’s high-octane offense. “Robert was new to this league and a lot of things he did wowed people because they didn’t know what was going on. They didn’t know if he was going to tuck it or run it.

“When you look at our running games and the things we’ve been able to do with Robert running the ball, a lot of times that wouldn’t get done if it weren’t for the outside guys.

“So defenses sit back and try to find a way to prevent him from doing that because when he’s doing that than everything is wide open because you don’t know what to stop. When he’s not, than we have to be a little more creative and find a way to beat them without having to run Robert.

The elder statesman of the receiving corps also wants his teammates to remain patient; their number will be called.

When it is, they’ll have the chance to flash their skills. 

“Wait your turn, it will come,” Moss said. “That’s how I look at it. You might have to block more, it might be the tight end getting off this week or it might be the X receiver getting off this week. You might be playing a team that has light coverage on the inside and the gator guy might [get it], so it varies.

“We play games based on what the defense is weak at and you try to scheme your gameplan around what we can attack most. Your job might be to get a lot of attention so that somebody else can get open. It’s about you being ready, and if you’re ready you never have to worry about being ready because you’re expecting it.”

After last season’s late run and no NFC East team above .500 entering Week 9 action, Moss knows that Redskins are still very much in the thick of the race.
But they will need to improve internally before doing any sort of scoreboard watching.

“I don’t think it’s too late for all that to happen for us right now. We’re going to get on eventually.”

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Ryan Clark defends Brandon Meriweather comments

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark has defended Washington Redskins' safety Brandon Meriweather over comments he made regarding the league's policy on helmet-to-helmet hits.

Meriweather threatened to target receivers' knees having been given a one-match ban for repeatedly hitting defenceless players in the head, arguing that the league's rules encouraged players to "tear ACLs".

Clark admitted that Meriweather's comments may have come off a little strong, but insisted that there was a lot of truth in what he was saying.

"Obviously the position that he's in makes him sound angry, makes it sounds a little more cruel than it truly is. But what he's saying is extremely true or has a lot of fact to in the sense that the one place we know we can hit guys and you won't get fined is extremely low," Clark told reporters.

"What he says makes a lot of sense to me. You just wish he was in a better position emotionally to where people can really understand it and really know that he's only saying he's trying to be as safe as possible as far as not getting fined, not getting suspended, not getting penalized."

Clark also backed Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant after he was criticised for a couple of sideline confrontations with teammates at the weekend.

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Santana Moss bothered by Pierre Garcon’s comments

Pierre Garcon had some harsh words to say about the Redskins’ passing game. When asked about it after the loss to the Broncos, Garcon seemed to call out those involved in the passing game.

“It doesn’t matter if we play the worst team in the league on defense,” he said. “If we suck at passing, we suck at passing.”

While on with LaVar and Dukes on 106.7 The Fan on Tuesday (audio here), Santana Moss was played the the audio of Garcon’s comments and asked to respond.

“We all a part of the passing game, as receivers,” Moss said, after pausing to choose his words carefully. “Regarding whether we suck or aren’t the best, it’s not my job to come out here and tell you that. It’s not my job to go out there and tell someone asking a question about what’s going on, what’s going on in house. Everybody see what’s going on, but everybody don’t know what’s going on. So, getting back to what I’ve always said, if that’s your opinion, find a way to keep your opinion to yourself and express it around where it need to be expressed. In house, with the guys. And that’s the only way you can solve that. We can’t get better talking about what we suck at. Especially when it comes to addressing something you a part of.

“As receivers, we don’t throw the ball to ourselves,” he continued. “We understand that. But if you have a problem, and if it’s a problem, you address the people that has control over getting you the ball.”

Moss admitted that Garcon’s public criticism bothered him, especially when asked if it was a veiled shot at Robert Griffin III.

“I just feel like there’s better ways to do it, if it was,” he said. “Personally, I can’t go at nobody through the media. That’s the last place I go at somebody at. And personally, if I feel like I had a problem with Robert, I’d have to go to the source above Robert, and let them know how I feel so they can hear and understand where I’m at, then bring it to him so there will be no misunderstanding.”

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Giants' LB coach Jim Herrmann talks about Jon Beason

Much-maligned throughout all of the offseason, the New York Giants linebacking corps was expected to be the weak link in the defense. Early on this season, that was certainly the case.

The unit lost Dan Connor early and Mark Herzlich appeared not to be ready to be a starting middle backer. But the acquisition of Jon Beason and the development of younger players like Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger has helped strengthen a defense that has given up three points in its last 10 quarters of play.

The Giants defense has been stellar in recent weeks, largely due to the revamped linebacking corps. According to linebackers coach Jim Herrmann, ignoring the criticism and playing with confidence has been the catalyst.

"As a group, I think those guys have done a good job. In today's world it's about wins and losses; you don't win and you lose, somebody's going to take the criticism," he said Tuesday. "In the last couple of weeks with wins ... they build their confidence and keep striving to go out and be better."

Perhaps no one player has made a greater impact than Beason, the veteran who was acquired from the Carolina Panthers. Beason has battled injuries since making the Pro Bowl in 2010 and eventually lost his job in Carolina.

Since joining the Giants and getting playing time in the middle Week 6 against the Chicago Bears, the defense has allowed fewer than 260 total yards per game and forced six turnovers. In contrast, the unit forced seven in the first month of the season. And in the past two weeks, no quarterback has thrown for more than 176 yards and no running back has totaled more 48 yards.

Beason's enthusiasm and ability to be a coach on the field has paid dividends for the defense.

"He's a very upbeat leader. He has an infection personalty; most great leaders are. To be able to walk into the door and play right away, that's not easy. He was able to do it and everybody on the defense was right with him. To me, that's huge," Herrmann said. "When you have a guy like that, that one voice resonates to everyone on the field, and the results are 11 guys on the same page."

Not only has Beason made his presence felt on the Giants D, so has Paysinger, who played a critical role as a leader of the linebacking corps early on in the season.

Paysinger, who has thrived for the Giants on special teams early on in his career, has grown into his role as a starting backer. According to Herrmann, much of Paysinger's development has coincided with Beason's mentorship.

"Spencer has done a great job this year," he said. "He has developed into a good football player and continues to play and get his ankle right. Having Jon will help him, too, because Jon's been in the league for seven or eight years and this is Spencer's third or fourth year. It will help him just to see a different type of guy and personality."

Not only has Paysinger seen an increased role; so has Williams, who finally appears healthy and has been a versatile cover linebacker for the Giants this season.

Like Paysinger, Williams is continuing to grow and learn about the nuances of the position and will improve as the season goes on.

"He's learning the nuances of the game, the nuances of the coverage and covering people man to man," Herrmann said. "You need to touch the oven and feel it's hot to learn not to touch it anymore. You need to learn how to cover a guy and difference nuances of routes and where he needs to be. The more he does it, the better he's going to be."

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Antonio Gates says he can understand Meriweather’s frustration after suspension

SAN DIEGO — Chargers tight end Antonio Gates said he can understand Brandon Meriweather’s frustration after being suspended for multiple helmet-first hits against defenseless receivers.

Meriweather has been vocal this week, saying, “I guess I’ve just got to take people’s knees out.”

“Now whether he does it or not, you understand at one point when they fined you $100,000 and you start losing that kind of money, I’m quite sure you second-guess yourself on making certain plays,” Gates said. “It’s not that you’re not playing or you’re pulling back, but I feel for that situation because when I was a kid I played on defense.”

Monday was Meriweather’s first day back with the Redskins following the suspension, which was cut in half after an appeal, and he’s expected to be on the field Sunday when Washington faces the Chargers. Asked if he plans to change how he plays, Meriweather said: “I guess I’ve just got to take people’s knees out. I’d hate to end a guy’s career over a rule, but I guess it’s better (for something to happen to) other people than me getting suspended for longer.”

Meriweather should see plenty of Gates, the Chargers’ leading receiver with 42 catches for 497 yards and two touchdowns.

Gates said he’s not against rugged play, it’s just when hits are delivered.

“If I have the ball and see you coming and I know what’s coming, that’s football,” Gates said. “But if I’m in the air and I’m not looking and you ear-hole me that’s (different). That is the whole concept of being a defenseless player and getting hit that way.”

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Lamar Miller: Report: Fins players questioning O gameplan

NFL Network's Jeff Darlington reports that some Dolphins players "are starting to wonder about this offensive gameplan."
"Let me not overstate this: The locker room is still together," Darlington explained. "There's still a good vibe in there. I talked to several players today and they still feel like they can get this season back on track. However, there is some question of what OC Mike Sherman is starting to do and it really started to come to a head after Sunday's loss to the Patriots." Featuring Lamar Miller, the Dolphins ran the ball 22 times for 120 yards in the first half last Sunday and jumped out to a 17-3 lead. In the third quarter, Sherman dialed up just six run plays and the game was quickly tied up at 17-17. While we'd like to think the Dolphins are starting to see the light with Miller, only time will tell.

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Sean Spence enters third week of practice

Steelers linebacker Sean Spence began practice the week of Oct. 14. That means this is the last week he'll practice before the team has to either add him to the active roster or place him on injured-reserve.

Spence has been recovering from a knee injury since last August, but he broke a finger quickly into his return from the practice field - casting a pall over his comeback efforts, and possibly risking missing the remainder of this season.

If he practiced for the first time Wednesday, Oct. 16 - the first full day of practice for the week - a decision on his season must be made by Wednesday, Nov. 5.
The finger injury could be enough to inspire the team to keep him on ice until next year - an unfortunate situation that wasn't, nor could have been, anticipated before he got on the practice field. At the same time, it may not necessarily matter, if he shows he's able to play through it.

Roster moves aren't exactly at a premium, considering the Steelers are 2-5 and have an offense that's failed to score more than 19 points in its last three games. The defense allowed 197 rushing yards in its loss to the Raiders, after stifiling both Baltimore and the Jets on the ground.

The team has this week to evaluate Spence and will have to use a current lens - if he can contribute to special teams, sub packages or even the base defense, they'd strongly consider bringing him into the fold. If it's still going to be a bit until either his knee or his finger will not limit him from playing at a high level, they aren't likely to risk putting him on the field for the remainder of the season.

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Accused shooter denies he’s the one who killed Sean Taylor

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The man accused of killing for Redskins safety Sean Taylor took the stand Tuesday and denied he was in the home at the time of the shooting.

According to David Ovalle of the Miami Herald, accused murderer Eric Rivera told jurors he did not know he and a group of four men were going to burglarize Taylor’s home, and that he was in the car at the time shots were fired.

“Did I know we were going to Sean Taylor’s house? No,” Rivera said.

Rivera claimed he stayed inside the SUV as the others went inside Taylor’s home, and that he didn’t know anyone had been shot until the others raced back to the car.

He also said the shooter was Venjah Hunte, the only one of the five defendants to have pleaded guilty so far.

Rivera will face cross-examination this afternoon, which will be interesting since police contend he has already confessed.

Rivera also claimed today that Miami-Dade police coerced him into confessing, and didn’t allow him a chance to call his parents.

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No discipline for Brandon Meriweather’s comments on attacking opponent’s knees

Coming off a one-game suspension for repeated violations of the player safety rules regarding blows to the head of defenseless players, Brandon Meriweather vowed to start aiming lower at opposing players to avoid getting fined.

Meriweather said he’ll have to start targeting players’ knees at the risk of ending their careers instead of shots to the upper body of opposing players.

“I guess I’ve just got to take people’s knees out,” Meriweather said, via Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “That’s the only way. . . .  I’d hate to end a guy’s career, you know, over a rule.  But I guess it’s better other people than me getting suspended for longer. . . .

“To be honest, man, you’ve just got to go low now.  You’ve got to end people’s careers, you know?  You’ve got to tear people’s ACLs and mess up people’s knees now.  You can’t hit them high no more.  You’ve just got to go low.”

According to Tom Pelissero of the USA Today, the league will not levy any further discipline against Meriweather for the comments.

“We are not approaching it as a matter that requires discipline,” league spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email.

Meriweather was initially suspended for two games before an appeal reduced the suspension to just one game.

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Vikings cut Chase Ford, re-sign Justin Trattou

The Minnesota Vikings cut tight end Chase Ford and re-signed defensive end Justin Trattou.

Ford is a 6-foot-6, 245-pounder from the University of Miami.

He has spent time previously with the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.

Trattou was on the active roster until being recently released when Ford was promoted from the practice squad.

The move to add a defensive end to the roster coincides with reports that the Vikings are trying to trade defensive end Jared Allen. Whether this is connected or not remains to be seen.

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Brandon Meriweather has a point

Filter out the noise. It is tough to do. Brandon Meriweather calling out Brandon Marshall is sexy. It was an incendiary -- and unnecessary -- slap. It was player-on-player crime. That sells.

But listen to exactly what Meriweather said Monday about how he is going to change the way he plays the safety position for Washington. It, too, was bold. It was honest. It was real.

And it is a problem for the National Football League, because Meriweather certainly isn't alone. He simply was unafraid to put his name and his voice to a subject that has been brewing for years.

Meriweather is going to start targeting opposing players' lower legs. That's right. He said he is going to target knees. He is going to try to tear ACLs. Because he has a history of hitting opponents too high -- he just served a one-game suspension for two hits he made against Chicago on Oct. 20 -- Meriweather vowed to no longer aim high. He is going to aim low, the consequences be damned.

"I guess I just have to take people's knees out," Meriweather said. "That's the only way. I would hate to end a guy's career over a rule, but I guess it's better other people than me getting suspended for longer. You just have to go low now, man. You've got to end people's careers. You got to tear people's ACLs and mess up people's knees. You can't hit them high anymore."

No, you can't. That much the NFL has made clear. You can't hit high. You can't target the head. You can't lead with the crown of your helmet. You can't hit a defenseless receiver.

The price for doing those things ranges from a 15-yard penalty to a suspension, which carries with it the loss of a game check. That is severe, but that is how much the NFL is trying to take the head out of the game. The league should be applauded for that.

If Meriweather is any indication -- and he should be, given that he just had to sit on the couch and watch Washington lose to Denver on Sunday rather than help his teammates defend Peyton Manning -- the message has been received.

Yet there is an unintended consequence for altering the strike zone. There will be other injuries. Different injuries. Not crippling head injuries, but potentially career-threatening injuries. Knee injuries.

That's not good, either. That will have its own set of ramifications.

So far since the regular-season started, at least 54 players have gone on injured reserve with lower leg injuries. There are plenty of big names on the list: St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford, Indianapolis wide receiver Reggie Wayne, Houston linebacker Brian Cushing, Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones, New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork, Denver left tackle Ryan Clady and Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey, among others.

It hurts the game when stars go on the shelf for a season. If defensive players now intentionally shoot low -- which is what some will inevitably do to avoid fines and suspensions for hitting too high -- more injuries will follow, which will dilute the product.

Just imagine if offensive players think defensive players are intentionally trying to hurt them by aiming for the knees. A blow to the knee could be a career ender. It could potentially cost a player hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars.

That would not go over well. That could be beyond ugly.

And that could definitely happen.

The measured response to Meriweather's newfound approach is to tell him to just aim for the middle. Attack an opponent's core. Try to wrap him up around his middle. Rely on technique.

But even Washington coach Mike Shanahan said that if a player is going to err on the side of caution, "you would rather go low than you would high."

The reality is that in a collision sport where things happen at accelerated speeds between players who are bigger, stronger and faster than they were 10 years ago, knees are going to be in play. Nutrition and training have evolved. The game has changed and continues to change. Lower leg injuries are going to be a consequence.

Defensive players are frustrated by all of the rules changes they think benefit the offense. They are frustrated by all of the flags and all of the fines. They think the league has tilted the landscape to favor offenses, because prolific offenses are more exciting to the ticket-buying public than stingy defenses.

Meriweather just voiced that frustration. He was wrong, but he was real.

The next step in this evolution will be for the NFL's competition committee to act, and surely it will. Every offseason, the committee studies injuries. This spring will be no different. If defensive players intentionally target lower legs, the committee will legislate a new rule, because the game can't have a rash of torn ACLs and blown Achilles tendons.

That wouldn't be good for anybody, Brandon Meriweather included.

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Sam Shields rising to occasion

Green Bay — Giants shield the end zone, like Mike Daniels and A.J. Hawk, with shoulders so broad they take an angle when they walk through some doorways, and Datone Jones and Johnny Jolly, who are tall enough to need the headroom of an SUV.

But there is Sam Shields behind them all, Green Bay's last line of defense. He is guarding the goal line against Washington and dives after the ball carrier. Then he disappears, No. 37 buried under fullbacks and tight ends and linemen.

The play worked. Green Bay lived to fight another down.

Shields got to the NFL with his speed. Nothing has changed there. But the truth is, he has had to work on other parts of his game to stick around as an undrafted free agent and become a starting cornerback for the now sizable, now feisty Packers defense.

"He might not be your biggest guy but he's a tough guy," said safety Morgan Burnett. "He has the big play-making ability but he won't back down from no one, I don't care who you are."

Starting opposite Tramon Williams, Shields has been taking on top-flight receivers this season.

Against Baltimore, he defended Torrey Smith, who was second in the NFL with 556 yards at that point but was held to one catch for 12 yards.

Against Washington, Shields dived around Santana Moss to deflect a pass with his left hand. When Robert Griffin III completed a big throw to Pierre Garcon, it could have been a touchdown, but Shields raced from behind to save it. Washington didn't score on the drive.

Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green did get a touchdown out of his four catches, but Shields evened the score with an interception and otherwise hounded Green. That was a big-time stance against a Pro Bowl receiver.

After some early inconsistency, Shields is turning in steady performances. Shields still uses his speed and has refined some acrobatic moves to make up for anything he doesn't have in height and weight at 5 feet 11 inches and 184 pounds.

"I've been working at it, working at different movements that I never did before," said Shields. "When the coaches look at me, they're now grading me on technique, like staying square on backpedaling, so that you can move either way. It also helps in practice, going against Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson — they make it so much easier when you get to Sunday."

He's also adopted the mentality of a shutdown corner.

"Guys are going to catch balls, we have to forget about it and keep going," he said. "But I say to myself, every down: 'He's not going to catch it.' He might — but that's what I keep in my mind, every down, just go hard."

Shields has done everything possible to improve as a player and his gift of speed. He worked with his position coach, Joe Whitt Jr., to learn the defense.
"My first year I was out there, I didn't know it. I couldn't get it," said Shields.

Whitt put the formation on one side of a flashcard and then drew the defense on the other and tested Shields until he learned. Now, he's a trusted teammate.
"I like everything about Sam," said Hawk. "He's so easy. He communicates really well. He's super quiet but on the field, I love him. He's one of the fastest guys on the team, and so athletic, we have so much respect for him."

With Shields signing a one-year tender offer in June, he's playing for his future now. That will be largely determined by him and partly by his agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

"He was the only agent that really wanted me," said Shields. "I was like shoot, why not."

Rosenhaus followed Shields' career closely at the University of Miami, where Shields was a receiver until he converted to defensive back in 2009.

"He was a very talented guy that really wasn't used properly in college," said Rosenhaus. "He was out of position most of his career and yet he had a lot of upside. I was very interested in signing Sam. Even though he wasn't projected at the time to get drafted, we were very confident that he would be a good NFL player."

It's incredible, really, playing his first defensive snap in 2009, helping the team win the Super Bowl the following year and taking on top wideouts now. By many accounts that's all a credit to Shields and his dedication.

"He's matured so much," said Rosenhaus. "Not only as a player, just as a person. He's come so far, I give him so much credit.

"He's accountable both on and off the field, he's hardworking, dependable and he's a likable guy. He has a great personality. I've never met anybody who met Sam who didn't really like him."

The one area Shields hasn't been able to improve?

Bulking up.

Sam Shields III can thank genetics for his frame, but then he would have to be thankful for the speed and athleticism, too. His father, Sam Shields Jr., was a point guard at Southwestern Louisiana, a teammate of Andrew Toney, who went on to play for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Sam Jr. has been with wife Mimi since junior high school and raised Sam and his sister in the same Sarasota house he was born and raised in, just down the street from the John Ringling mansion that was turned into an art museum. The Shields' front door was always open and Mimi was always feeding someone.

"We never pushed our kids to do anything, but we stood behind them and supported them all the time," he said.

Blazing speed ran in the family, and when they were little Sam Shields' sister used to beat him in races down the street.

"And he would pout, and he would pout, and he would pout," said his father.

Sam didn't gravitate to basketball like his dad, though. His steal and sprint down the court would end with a plain old layup. No, he was a football player. This was Florida after all.

"Sarasota is pretty retired, laid back," said Sam Jr. "The black community is very small and together. This town is very liberal and very cultural, big art culture. And athletes here play football, tennis and, of course, golf."

It is important to know this because when Shields was asked the reason for his success, this was his answer:

"My parents always stayed on me. School, sports. That was a blessing because I don't know a lot of guys around here that have both of their parents.

"But being home is a place that I don't want to be. To tell you the truth, I'd probably be doing some illegal stuff if I was home. Just being real."

Shields explained that in Florida he has a friend who can't get a job because of his criminal record. He has another friend who has a degree but no motivation to find work.

"He's just not trying. That kills me every time," said Shields.

He knows others with similar stories. This is all too common. Sam Jr. said there were kids who were better — and even faster — than Sam but didn't have the focus or the desire to put in the work. Or they took their gifts for granted.

"Sam actually willed himself to do a lot of things on the positive side. He made a lot of good decisions," his dad said.

That means Shields comes back from practice and heads to his locker slowly, taking steps gingerly as joints and muscles pinch and tighten. Sure, he's tried to put on some muscle or even just a few pounds to endure another year in the NFL, but he eats whatever he wants and doesn't gain an ounce. So he just takes the abuse.

"I mean, there's a lot more guys smaller than me!" he pleads.

There's Denver's Tony Carter, who is 5-9, 175.

"He's a good player, he's smaller, way smaller than me," said Shields. "Brent Grimes plays for the Dolphins. I admire him a lot."

Looking ahead there's Calvin Johnson to face in the rematch with Detroit. There's Roddy White and Atlanta. Brandon Marshall in Chicago.

"Those are some big challenges I'd like to go against," said Shields. "Hey, I get a little aggressive, too. My little body can get a little aggressive too."

He may be small but he's going to have to play tall. Shields' father proudly introduces him back home as his NFL star son and the reaction is always, "'re kind of small."

To which Dad responds: "Well, he plays on his toes so he can be a little taller."

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MLB wants documents Alex Rodriguez used to rat out Ryan Braun and Francisco Cervelli

A public relations firm hired by Alex Rodriguez leaked documents to Yahoo! Sports in February linking Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun and Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli to the Biogenesis doping ring, according to documents filed by Major League Baseball in Manhattan Supreme Court Tuesday.

In its petition for an order compelling Michael S. Sitrick, owner of the Sitrick & Company P.R. firm, to comply with a subpoena in the arbitration between MLB and Rodriguez, baseball contends that Rodriguez obtained documents that “had been maintained by (Biogenesis owner Anthony) Bosch ...for the purpose of preventing MLB from obtaining those records and from uncovering evidence of Rodriguez’s use and possession of prohibited substances.”

The petition went on to say that MLB has a “good faith basis” to believe that Rodriguez or others acting on his behalf provided records to Sitrick & Company implicating Braun, Cervelli and others claiming they had received performance-enhancing substances from Bosch. The public relations firm then provided the information to Yahoo! Sports, the court papers said.

MLB’s filings noted that CBS’ 60 Minutes reported on its website in August that members of Rodriguez’s inner circle had obtained and leaked the Bosch records to Yahoo! Sports.

“It is our intention to work it out,” said Sitrick's attorney, J. Michael Hennigan of McKool Smith Hennigan. “Mr. Sitrick wants to cooperate to the extent that he can.”

The assertions in MLB’s court papers directly contradict claims by a spokesman for Rodriguez, who said last week that the embattled superstar did not attempt to obstruct MLB’s Biogenesis investigation by purchasing evidence.

he Players Association, acting as Rodriguez’s representative, agreed heading into the arbitration that Rodriguez would share any documents and information regarding his attempts to obtain Biogenesis records with MLB, the court papers say. The union, however, has told MLB that it was unable to produce the documents provided to Sitrick. The Supreme Court petition is an attempt to compel Sitrick to appear at Rodriguez’s appeal of his 211-game suspension with copies of the documents baseball says it believes are relevant to its case against Rodriguez.

“To date, MLB has received neither responsive documents from Sitrick & Co., nor an affidavit from Mr. Sitrick certifying that he and the company has or ever had the documents in question,” according to the petition. “The testimony of Mr. Sitrick is necessary to establish whether Rodriguez or his representatives have or had documents relevant to MLB’s allegations in the arbitration in their possession and when these documents were obtained.”

The Daily News reported in April that Rodriguez had purchased Biogenesis records and other evidence in an attempt to keep them from MLB investigators. A-Rod’s spokesman, Ron Berkowitz, denied then that Rodriguez or a representative purchased evidence.

The News reported earlier this month that Rodriguez’s lawyers acknowledged during the appeal of his 211-game suspension that they had spent $305,000 on evidence.

Berkowitz first denied that report, but later admitted that the evidence had been purchased this month but said it was not an attempt to interfere with baseball’s Biogenesis investigation.

Berkowitz declined comment on Tuesday.

Meanwhile in U.S. District Court for the Southern District, MLB will ask Judge Lorna G. Schofield to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Rodriguez that accuses commissioner Bud Selig of mounting a "witch hunt" against the scandal-stained superstar by Nov. 8, according to a letter one of Rodriguez's lawyers sent to the court on Monday.

MLB attorneys will argue that the Labor Management Relations Act requires that Rodriguez's dispute with baseball should be addressed by an arbitrator as outlined by the sport's collective bargaining agreement, the letter from attorney Jordan Siev said.

Team A-Rod, meanwhile, will argue that under the act, the case belongs in New York state court, where it was originally filed on Oct. 3, before MLB moved it to federal court.

The suit says Selig and other MLB officials engaged in unethical and even criminal behavior against Rodriguez to “gloss over” their past inaction and tacit approval of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

The court papers claim MLB officials conducted a "witch hunt" against Rodriguez to secure Selig's legacy as the "savior" of the national pastime. MLB called the lawsuit a "desperate attempt" to circumvent the appeals procedure outlined in the game’s Basic Agreement.

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Jimmy Graham very limited but scores twice

Jimmy Graham caught three passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns in Week 8 against the Bills.
Graham was very limited. He may not have even played 20 snaps. Graham played in all red-zone packages but rarely was on the field in between the 20s. He was targeted just the three times. But if we learned anything today, it's that you never bench Graham if he's active. One touchdown came from 15 yards out as he powered through Da'Norris Searcy. The other was a 13-yard strike where Graham stretched his arm across the goal line before his knee hit the ground. Graham is battling a painful partially torn plantar fascia injury, but he's going to keep playing. Hopefully another week of rest will do him some good. The Saints travel to New Jersey to take on the Jets in Week 9.

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Texans sign Tavares Gooden

The Houston Texans have signed five players: running backs Deji Karim, Dennis Johnson and Ray Graham and linebackers Tavares Gooden and Jeff Tarpinian.

They placed linebacker Brian Cushing on injured reserve with a broken leg and torn lateral collateral ligament.

Gooden is a former Baltimore Ravens third-round draft pick who last played for the San Francisco 49ers.

Gooden becomes the SIXTH proCane on the Texans joining Chris Myers, Ed Reed, Darryl Sharpton, Brandon Harris and Andre Johnson.

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Revisiting the Bryant McKinnie decision

Miami made a risky decision to start new left tackle Bryant McKinnie after just three practices with the team. The Dolphins acquired McKinnie on Oct. 21 in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. He got his first start Sunday and played relatively well. McKinnie held New England’s best pass-rusher in Chandler Jones to six tackles and zero sacks. Miami also had its best running day of the season. The Dolphins gained 156 rushing yards and averaged 5.0 yards per carry. McKinnie should improve with more practice time. He was already an upgrade over former starting offensive tackle Tyson Clabo.

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Travis Benjamin has tear in knee

BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns punt returner Travis Benjamin will miss the rest of the season after because of a torn ACL in his knee.

Benjamin, also a wide receiver, hurt the knee on a return with 2:34 left in the third quarter of Sunday's 23-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said the injury took place when Benjamin planted and twisted as he headed upfield.

Benjamin averaged 11.7 yards per punt return and scored on a 79-yarder against the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 3, when he set a team record with 179 yards in returns.

"Travis obviously is a big part of what we do and has been in terms of return game," Chudzinski said Monday. "He's explosive and has the speed and ability to make a big play."

The Browns will turn to Davone Bess as their primary punt returner. Bess, though, had a crucial fumble in the loss to the Chiefs.

Chudzinski said another option would be to use Joe Haden, though he would prefer not to use the talented cornerback on special teams.

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Brandon Meriweather rips Marshall

ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather, who served a one-game suspension Sunday for the way he hits, vowed to begin targeting players' knees and fired a shot at Chicago Bears star receiver Brandon Marshall, saying players who beat their girlfriends should be out of the NFL.

Meriweather has received numerous fines over the years for his helmet-to-helmet hits. After two more incidents against the Bears on Oct. 20, the NFL suspended Meriweather for two games until an appeals process reduced the ban to one.

"I guess I just got to take people's knees out," Meriweather said Monday morning in the Redskins' locker room. "That's the only way. I would hate to end a guy's career over a rule, but I guess it's better other people than me getting suspended for longer.

"You just have to go low now, man. You've got to end people's careers. You got to tear people's ACLs and mess up people's knees. You can't hit them high anymore."

Then Meriweather turned to Marshall and Bears tight end Martellus Bennett, who both publicly criticized the hard-hitting safety last week. Marshall received one of Meriweather's hits in the game on Oct. 20.

"I respect the league trying to better our game," Marshall said after that game. "Guys like that, maybe he needs to get suspended or taken out of the game completely."

Bennett said later in the week that he wanted to punch Meriweather. But Meriweather's ire was directed more at Marshall.

"He feels like I need to be kicked out of the league, I feel like people who beat their girlfriends should be kicked out of the league, too," Meriweather said.

Marshall has been arrested multiple times on alleged domestic-abuse charges but has never been convicted.

"You tell me who you'd rather have?" Meriweather said. "Someone who plays aggressive on the field or someone who beat up their girlfriend?"

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan did not approve of Meriweather's comments.

"I'm not sure I would have used those choice of words," Shanahan said.

When contacted by ESPN's Chris Mortensen, the NFL said it was aware of Meriweather's comments, saying that they were inappropriate.

Marshall took to Twitter on Monday shortly after Meriweather's comments.

On ESPN 1000's "Waddle and Silvy Show," Marshall continued to downplay Meriweather's shot at him.

"I'm praying for that guy," Marshall said. "He actually reached out to me last week and I told him that I was more concerned about him and his health, because I think a few weeks before our game I saw him lying on the field just out cold. It was a scary situation. I never want to see him or any player laid out like that.

"As far as what he said today: you can only pray for someone with those feelings. So that's all I have to say about that."

Meriweather said he thought the appeals process was handled well, citing former NFL coach Ted Cottrell's role in reducing the penalty.

Meriweather was fined $42,000 for a hit against Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy in Week 2. He also was fined $50,000 for a hit in 2010 with New England and accrued $45,000 in fines a year later with Chicago.

"The NFL do what they have to do," Meriweather said. "I guess they felt like suspending me for that game was the right thing to do, so they decided to make an example that they won't tolerate aggressive plays."

Meriweather maintained that he did not use his helmet on either hit against Chicago. That was the case he made during the appeals process, which occurred over the phone.

Meriweather agreed that he did launch into the defender on one hit, though he wasn't sure which one it was. Replays showed that he launched into Marshall after the receiver dropped a pass in the end zone.

"I know everybody's looking at the tape and saying, 'He's a dirty player, he's this, he's that,' which I get," Meriweather said. "But if anyone goes and looks at the tape, I didn't use my head in either hit. I'm moving on from it."

Meriweather said he has changed the way he hits but will have to do so even more now to avoid a worse suspension in the future.

Shanahan said safeties, more than cornerbacks, will attempt to tackle higher, taking runners head-on.

"Nobody's going to try to hurt anybody," Shanahan said. "But if you're going to err on the side of caution, you would rather go low than you would high. Brandon knows that he's got to go lower or he's not going to be playing in the National Football League."

The Redskins say they have focused more on tackling drills the past several weeks, and Meriweather said he'll work harder to stay low.

"Once you do something so much, it becomes habit," Meriweather said. "I think if I go in practice and simulate going low, it'll become habit and I'll be able to do it in a game."

But Meriweather wasn't done.

"They told me to use my shoulder, I use my shoulder. I still get fined and they still say I used my head," he said. "I mean, defenseless running backs ... I never heard of a defenseless running back."

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Sean Taylor Trial: Prosecution rests

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MIAMI (AP) - The prosecution has rested its main case against the man accused of shooting and killing Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor in 2007.

Defense lawyers for 23-year-old Eric Rivera Jr. will have their chance later Monday. It's unclear yet if Rivera himself will testify.

Rivera was among five people from the Fort Myers area that authorities say wanted to burglarize Taylor's home because they thought he kept large amounts of cash there. Taylor was shot after confronting the group with a machete.

A medical examiner testified Monday that Taylor died of massive blood loss after he was shot in the upper thigh.

Rivera faces life in prison if convicted.

Taylor was a Pro Bowl safety who also starred at the University of Miami.

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Frank Gore getting better at age of 30

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Apparently, no one has informed Frank Gore he turned 30 in May.

Turning 30 is generally considered the beginning-of-the-end birthday for NFL running backs. Often, great running backs see their production drop dramatically after their 30th birthday.

But halfway into the 2013 season, that is the not the case with Gore. In fact, in many ways, he's on pace for a career year.

Through eight weeks, Gore has 618 yards on 146 carries with seven touchdowns. Gore is on pace for 1,236 yards, 292 carries and 14 touchdowns. Remarkably, Gore is on pace for the most carries since he had 312 in 2006 -- at age 23. His projected yardage total would be the second highest of his career. His highest rushing touchdown total is 10, gained during the 2009 season.

His teammates and coaches are marveling at Gore, who has been the offensive spark-plug during the 49ers' 6-2 start. Going into the season, the 49ers wanted him to be Frank Gore-like. Instead, he is giving them vintage Frank Gore as he enters the fourth decade of his life.

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Reggie Wayne begins his rehabilitation

INDIANAPOLIS -- The road to recovery has officially started for Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne.

Wayne, out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL, had his surgery conducted by Dr. John Uribe late last week.

“Uneventful as they usually say,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “So everything came out great. He’s in good spirits, rehabbing three times a day, grinding it out as we would all expect. He’s doing well.”

Wayne will rehabilitate in Florida for the time being until he’s able to travel.

“He’ll be back here eventually, as soon as they let him,” Pagano said.

ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell said last week that most players take 6-to-9 months to recover from a torn ACL. `

Wayne’s consecutive games played streak ends at 189, and his 2013 season -- the 13th of his career -- ends with 38 catches for 503 yards and two touchdowns.

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Despite flag, Antrel Rolle provides spark for NY Giants' defense

PHILADELPHIA — The minute Antrel Rolle did it, he knew it was a “bonehead" move, but it was too late to stop the flags from flying. So he did the only thing he could do.

He went straight to his coach and apologized before Tom Coughlin had a chance to yell.

He earned points from his coach for that, and no harm was done since the Giants won, but Rolle knew he made a bad mistake in the first quarter when he celebrated his interception of a Michael Vick pass with a little dance. When some of his teammates joined in, it cost the Giants 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.

It’s a mistake Rolle vows he will never make again.

“Oh yeah, yeah, I felt horrible about that,” Rolle said after the Giants' 15-7 win over the Eagles. “I kind of got myself in a little mode. I intercepted (a pass) last week and did a little dance and I got away with one. I said, ‘Maybe they’ll let me get away with it again.’

“Definitely not a smart thing to do. Being a veteran player, being a captain of the team, it was definitely not a smart thing to do.”

What made it worse is that Rolle was on a roll in the first quarter. The interception of a pass intended for tight end Brent Celek was just the start. On the Eagles’ next drive, Rolle sacked Vick on the first play, which helped set the tone for the Giants’ defense. In all, Rolle was outstanding. He had five tackles, the sack — which came with a forced fumble that Vick recovered — and the interception.

His play has been a huge reason the defense hasn’t allowed a point over the last two weeks.

“Well, he’s been there as a solid factor all the way through,” Coughlin said. “It’s just obviously noticeable now with the last couple of weeks.”

The celebration penalty certainly was noticeable. “Yeah, he came right over and apologized to me,” Coughlin said. “You make a great play like that you've got the ball where you think you’ve got it and (then), ‘Ooops, wait a minute, it’s 15 yards back.’ … Territory we’ve already covered. We didn’t want to have to retake it.”

The Giants were forced to start that drive on their own 21 instead of the 36, but they ended up with three points anyway on the first of five Josh Brown field goals. But Rolle knows it could have been worse, which is why he went straight to Coughlin to say “I’m sorry.”

“Because I knew it was a bonehead move on my behalf,” Rolle said. “It was something that won’t happen again.”

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Lamar Miller totals 112 yards as Fins fall

Lamar Miller rushed 18 times for 89 yards and caught three passes for 23 yards in the Dolphins' Week 8 loss to the Patriots.

This was probably Miller's best effort of the season from an all-purpose perspective. He started, played ahead of Daniel Thomas, was used frequently in the screen game, and broke off some big runs between the tackles. The Dolphins have not been committed to their run game for the majority of the season, but were on Sunday. Only time will tell whether this is a sign of things to come. Miller will remain a dicey flex option when Miami faces the Bengals on Thursday Night Football in Week 9.

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Frank Gore scores on 19-yard run (GIF)


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Ref explains controversial call on Olivier Vernon

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Miami Dolphins had a tough day with the officials. The biggest call came in the fourth quarter following a sack on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Down three points, Dolphins defensive back Jimmy Wilson forced Brady to fumble with nine minutes left in the game. Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon was closing in on the recovery but could not corral the football.

The ball bounced 14 more yards and Patriots left tackle Nate Solder recovered at Miami’s 45-yard line. However, the official threw the flag on Olivier for illegally batting the ball forward.

Instead of losing 22 total yards, New England gained 10 yards on the penalty. The 32-yard swing led to the Patriots scoring their final touchdown four plays later in a 27-17 victory against Miami.

“You know, our stance was we thought he was trying to recover it,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “And they said he illegally batted it.”

Here was referee Walt Anderson’s explanation after the game via the pool report:

“The official on the field, what he ruled was that the player batted it forward, which is an intentional act. Players cannot bat the ball forward. With it being the defensive team they couldn’t bat it in that direction. The offensive team likelwise could not have batted it forward from their side of the field.”

Anderson further explained that the play was not reviewable.

Players in Miami’s locker room would not elaborate much on the questionable officiating Sunday. That may have been an edict from Philbin. It also prevents players from getting fined.

There were a few other plays such as a defensive holding call on Miami cornerback Dimitri Patterson and a potential sideline catch by receiver Rishard Matthews that didn’t go the Dolphins’ way. But Vernon’s call was clearly the most important.

“I was trying to make a play,” Vernon said. “But the ref called it and that’s what it is.”

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Bryant McKinnie shows promise in debut

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It wasn’t all bad for the Miami Dolphins during their 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots.

Yes, the Dolphins lost their fourth straight game. Yes, Miami allowed 24 unanswered points in the second half to New England. But there were a few bright spots in defeat.

One of the biggest signs of life in Miami’s loss was the impromptu performance of new left tackle Bryant McKinnie. He was acquired less than a week ago and had just three practices. Yet, the veteran and former Pro Bowler held his own under tough circumstances.

McKinnie showed good feet in pass blocking and was a cog in Miami’s season-high 156 rushing yards. The Dolphins averaged 5.0 yards per carry and controlled the line of scrimmage most of the game, in part due to McKinnie.

“I feel like I did a decent job,” McKinnie said in the locker room afterwards. “To come in here on Tuesday and play on Sunday and had to learn a bunch of stuff in a short couple days, it only gets better from here. I get more time to learn.”

The final pass protection numbers were deceiving. Miami wound up allowing six sacks. But all six came in the second half once the Dolphins lost momentum and became predictably pass-heavy.

McKinnie was solid against New England’s top pass-rusher Chandler Jones. The Patriots' defensive end was held without a sack. McKinnie was certainly an upgrade over embattled offensive tackle Tyson Clabo, who was benched Sunday after allowing eight sacks this season.

Most of New England’s sacks came from outside pressures and lack of blitz-pickups. That is something that must improve.

“We’re going to make some adjustments I’m sure, and we’re going to get things corrected,” McKinnie said.

Sacks remain an issue for Miami. But McKinnie’s performance on short notice Sunday is proof that the Dolphins’ pass protection can make strides.

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Broncos OT Orlando Franklin a "tough guy" in return from injury

In a mild surprise, given the extent of the left leg injuries he suffered two weeks ago, Orlando Franklin was the Broncos' starting right offensive tackle Sunday.

"It tells you we've got some tough guys on this team," Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said.

And Manning is one of them. He suffered an ankle injury two games ago while getting hit in the end zone against Jacksonville and Manning was hit hard and hit often the previous Sunday at Indianapolis.

He did not limp or favor his injured ankle during the game Sunday. Throwing three interceptions weren't because of the ankle.

"Actually, I felt pretty good out there today," said Manning, who besides the three interceptions, completed 30-of-44 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns. "I felt like I was moving around, and I was able to move in the pocket a little bit. The bye week is coming at a good time for a lot of people physically, for me as well to get some rest."

Franklin left the game two weekends earlier against Jacksonville with a sprained left knee and left ankle. He gave up a strip sack to Ryan Kerrigan that led to Manning's fumble, but otherwise delivered a gritty performance.

With Franklin back, Louis Vasquez returned to his customary right guard position. Vasquez made his first NFL start at right tackle last week against the Indianapolis Colts and played well.

Chris Kuper had a setback with his troublesome left ankle while he played right guard last week at Indy. He did not dress Sunday.

The Broncos' offensive front was, from left to right, Chris Clark, Zane Beadles, Manny Ramirez, Vasquez and Franklin . That has been the Broncos' line alignment since left tackle Ryan Clady suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 2.

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Rocky McIntosh Talks A Little Trash To Jason Witten

DETROIT – Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten didn’t have a memorable afternoon Sunday at Detroit. And it didn’t end well, either.

Detroit Lions linebacker Rocky McIntosh taunted Witten as both teams were walking into their locker rooms, which were only a few feet away from each other.

McIntosh turned toward Witten and yelled, “It’s OK, Jason.” Witten just ignored him and kept walking. McIntosh has played against Witten often in his career since he spent the first six seasons of his career with the Washington Redskins.

Witten had only two catches for 15 yards against the Lions. Quarterback Tony Romo targeted him only twice, marking the least amount of targets Witten has had in a game since two against the New York Giants on Nov. 14, 2010.

Late in the game, Witten was the one doing the yelling. He directed it toward Dez Bryant on the sideline in an effort to try to calm down the receiver.

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Saints made last-minute decision on Jimmy Graham

The Saints didn't decide Jimmy Graham's (foot) Week 8 availability until just before game time.
Team doctors are confident Graham's partial plantar fascia tear cannot be aggravated, and his playing availability going forward will come down to pain tolerance. Graham managed to play under 20 snaps in Sunday's blowout win over the Bills, primarily playing in red-zone packages. He caught three passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns. The Saints travel to face the Jets in Week 9.

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Jon Beason in the middle of Giants ‘D’ turnaround

PHILADELPHIA — If you are a Giants fan you are well aware of the numbers: 36, 41, 38, 31, 36 and 27.
No, these were not winning Pick Six lottery numbers. They were the scorn of the once-proud Giants defense, points allowed — in order of games en route to an 0-6 start — to the Cowboys, Broncos, Panthers, Chiefs, Eagles and Bears.

Two weeks ago, the Giants were fast-tracking to a franchise record for defensive futility — and that includes the calamitous 1987 strike season during which replacement players were on the field for three games.

On Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, in a 15-7 win over the same Eagles who handed them a 36-21 defeat three games ago, the Giants’ defense pitched its second consecutive shutout. As the Eagles’ lone touchdown Sunday game on special teams, so, too, did the Vikings’ only points last Monday.

The Giants defense has not allowed a point since the second quarter of their 27-21 loss to the Bears on Oct. 6.

Two days before that loss in Chicago, the Giants traded with Carolina for linebacker Jon Beason, who has become a rock in the middle of their defense.
“I think we got away with a steal there,’’ defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. “He’s been a phenomenal player who also has a lot of ball left to play and we appreciate having him. He fits in really well and he’s elevated the level of play tremendously.’’

It has been Beason in recent weeks who has gotten the entire Giants’ defense to show up to work a half-hour early, at 7:30 a.m., for a players-only film session to complement the work they do with the coaches.

Rarely does a new player come to a team, assert himself and be received with open arms by his new teammates the way Beason has with the Giants.
“He’s made a great impact,’’ cornerback Terrell Thomas said.

“We’ve had the meetings before, but having Jon there has added more structure to it, it added a voice to the meeting,’’ linebacker Spencer Paysinger said.
“Beason has been phenomenal; he’s something that we needed,’’ Giants safety Antrel Rolle, who had an INT Sunday, said. “We needed a voice from the linebacker position — the middle-linebacker position. We needed someone who was going to stand his ground, we needed someone who was going to get everyone lined up, make it real snappy, no BS-ing around, let’s get it right.’’

Beason, according to his teammates, has gotten things right.

“I’m a big believer in if something’s wrong you fix it,’’ Beason said. “If you go out and a certain result happens that’s not what you want then do something different. The guys have put the onus on each other. Sometimes you can be given a technique by a coach, who said, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ but sometimes guys see it differently.’’

The players assemble in the defensive meeting room at 7:30 a.m., about 30 minutes before team meetings take place, and go over film and scenarios.
Giants safety Will Hill, who had an INT Sunday, said it was a “sense of urgency on this team’’ that caused Beason to gather the defensive players together for the early meetings.

“We had an intervention as a defensive unit,’’ Hill said, “We sat down and said, “Look, what’s not working? What can we do to make it better?’ The players came together, then we went to the coaches and players came back together.’’

The Giants players do not believe there is any coincidence to Beason’s arrival and the defense playing better.

“When you earn the right to go out and win, when you put in that extra work, you expect it. You don’t hope,’’ Beason said. “You don’t go out and say, ‘Man, I hope we win this game.’ ’’

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Vikings Release DE Justin Trattou, Promote TE Chase Ford

The Minnesota Vikings released defensive end Justin Trattou from the active roster.  Trattou was a former New York Giants player prior to his brief stay on the Vikings roster which lasted less than a month.  Although he would have been primarily a special teams player, Justin Trattou failed to find any playing time during a game while with the Vikings.

To take his place on the roster, Minnesota has signed tight end Chase Ford to the active roster.  Ford is most likely was promoted due to the injury to fellow tight end Rhett Ellison.  Ellison has already been ruled out of the week 8 contest with an ankle injury.

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Ed Reed says he can still do all the things he’s ever done

Ed Reed is an eight-time All-Pro, a former Defensive Player of the Year and was voted one of the Top 100 players in NFL history. That’s the player the Texans hoped they were getting when they signed Reed as a free agent this year.

But it hasn’t been the player the Texans got. Reed himself admitted that he had a rough game in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs, and almost everyone who has seen him play this year would agree that he’s a long way from his prime. But the 35-year-old Reed still believes he can play the way he needs to play.

“I’m still focused,” Reed told the Houston Chronicle. “I’m still able to do the things that I know I can do, that I’ve been doing. It’s just a matter of getting opportunities and taking advantage of those opportunities. I can’t be lackadaisical when it’s time for me to make any play, whether it’s a tackle, fumble recovery, anything that it might be. [You] definitely will see a change.”

Reed doesn’t have any interceptions this season, but he said that’s simply because, “I’m not getting the ball thrown my way.” The reality, however, is that teams tried to throw away from Reed in Baltimore, and he found a way to make plays. In Houston he’s not making those plays, even if he thinks he still can.

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American Heritage’s Mike Rumph, Michel invited to bowl game

Plantation American Heritage coach Mike Rumph used to stand on the sidelines of NFL fields, cherishing the moments when military fighter jets would fly over the stadiums following the national anthem before his games on Sunday.

It gave Rumph, who was a defensive back on UM’s national-championship team in 2001 before stints with the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins, a sense of pride he still feels before leading his team through the national anthem during their games on Friday.

“It’s a feeling that I can’t explain,” Rumph said. “Just to come out there as a professional, and when those jets fly across the stadium, it makes what you’re doing so small. You’re just out there playing for fun. That kept me humble and kept things in context for me as a player.”

Rumph and running back Sony Michel were honored at their school Friday with invitations to participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4, 2014, in San Antonio.

“I’m really, really honored to do this,” Rumph said. “I always thought as a person if I couldn’t make it in college, I would go to the Army. It’s a dream come true to have the opportunity to represent the Army in some fashion.”

As for the soft-spoken and laid-back Michel, he thanked God, his teammates, family and staff at American Heritage during his brief acceptance speech.
“Not a lot of kids get this opportunity,” Michel said after the presentation.

“I just go out there and play for my family. That’s the only thing I could say I could play for.”

Even though Michel — rated a five-star recruit by several media outlets and considered the second-best running back in the nation by ESPN — has been orally committed to Georgia since April, he said the University of Miami is still trying to work its way into his consideration.

Michel, who will attend Saturday’s UM game against Wake Forest at Sun Life Stadium, said he’s still firm in his oral commitment to Georgia despite speaking with UM running-backs coach Hurlie Brown once every two weeks.

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Trey McKinney-Jones Waived

proCane NBA undrafted rookie forward Trey McKinney-Jones was waived by Milwaukee.

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Cavaliers Waive Kenny Kadji

The Cleveland Cavaliers have waived center DeSagana Diop, forward Kenny Kadji, guard Jermaine Taylor and guard Elliot Williams.

The Cavaliers' roster now stands at 15.

Diop averaged 3.7 minutes in three preseason games for the Cavs.

Kadji played in seven preseason games with averages of 5.0 points and 1.7 rebounds in 9.4 minutes per game.

Taylor averaged 5.7 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists in seven preseason games.

Williams played in six Cavs preseason contests, averaging 2.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 7.9 minutes per game.

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Shane Larkin doing more drills, but not quite ready for practices

Rookie point guard Shane Larkin has begun doing lateral footwork to strengthen his surgically repaired right ankle.

He still isn’t ready to begin practicing, but that day is getting closer, he said.

“I feel good,” he said. “We’re just taking it slow and being extra careful. I really don’t know. I’m just listening to the trainer and the doctor. Whatever they tell me to do, I do. I’ve been progressing well so I’m going to keep doing what they tell me and hopefully I can get out there soon enough.”

Larkin and Devin Harris (left big toe surgery) will not be available early in the season, which will test the Mavericks’ depth at point guard.

“As the regular season comes along, I’m getting more and more antsy,” Larkin said. “I just have to be patient. I’d much rather miss this than go out there early and mess something else up and miss more time.”

Larkin said it’s almost like starting from scratch with his ankle strength.

“I’m trying to get my lateral quickness and my lateral strength back in my leg,” he said. “You don’t really know how much your body gets out of it when you’re out for three months. I was doing some of the drills and my feet weren’t with me. I tripped a couple times. Just getting everything back together again is tough.”

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Lauryn Williams On US Bobsled Team

Lolo Jones is a step closer to the Sochi Games, and Lauryn Williams might not have raced in her final Olympics after all.

Jones and Williams are best known for their track accomplishments, Jones as one of the world's elite hurdlers and Williams as an NCAA champion and Olympic gold medalist sprinter.

They were among nine women chosen Saturday for the U.S. bobsled national team, putting them squarely into the mix for spots in Sochi in February.

U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation CEO Darrin Steele called the team "the fastest and most prepared group of athletes we've ever seen."

"It was difficult to narrow the women's push field to six and it will be even more challenging to select the top three for the Olympic team in a few months," Steele said in a statement shortly after Saturday's announcement was made in Park City, Utah. "The hard work and dedication has paid off and I couldn't be more proud of all these athletes."

Elana Meyers will drive USA-1, Jamie Greubel will drive USA-2 and Jazmine Fenlator will drive USA-3. Meyers was a bronze medalist as a push athlete at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

"Jazmine, Elana and I all started driving around the same time so we have that kind of friendly rivalry and I think it works really well for us," Greubel said. "We work together and shake each other's hands at the end of the day, no matter who's on top. I really respect the other girls that are drivers on the team. They definitely help push me to be a better athlete."

The men's national team will be announced Sunday.

Jones is on the women's national team for the second straight season established herself quickly last season on the World Cup circuit. Williams is a rookie who was largely recruited by Jones, especially after the former Miami Hurricane star announced her retirement from track not long after helping the U.S. win the 4x100-meter relay gold medal at the London Olympics.

Jones finished fourth in the 100-meter hurdles at the London Games and four years earlier in Beijing was in position to win gold when she hit the ninth of 10 hurdles and wound up seventh.

"Last year I was just soaking everything in. It was an adventure, it was fun, it was nothing really on the line for me," Jones said. "It was just kind of an escape and there were no expectations. So now coming into my second year, they expect me to be more knowledgeable and more of a leader."

Also selected as push athletes were 2010 Olympian Emily Azevedo, two-time national push champion Aja Evans, two-time world championship medalist Katie Eberling and Army soldier-athlete Kristi Koplin.

Williams touched a bobsled for the first time in July. A week later, she placed third in the national push championships. What wasn't even fathomable — a sprinter who's spent much of the last 15 years in Miami getting into a winter sport and qualifying for the Olympics almost on a whim — now seems more than a little bit possible.

"I know this is the right place for me right now," Williams said. "I've learned so much in the two months already. And do I want to make it all the way to the end? Certainly."

Jones said she recognized right away that Williams, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the 100-meter dash, had all the right tools for sliding.

"She's very humble," Jones said. "I was like, 'Oh, gosh, I'm going to regret recruiting her if she beats me out for the team.' But I have a lot of respect for Lauryn and I just couldn't see her taking a stab at it. She already has the gold and the silver. I told her she's losing nothing and just go for it."

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